Covid-NYC: Eric Sze of The 886

By Eric Sze | Jaclyn Warren

By

Eric Sze
Jaclyn Warren
Chef Eric Sze of 886
Chef Eric Sze of 886

ERIC SZE, SURVIVING, AND INSPIRATION 

Two days after the mandated shutdown, we opened back up, serving cold bento boxes inspired by Asian convenience stores (you just pop ’em in the microwave). Next thing you know, we started getting donations from strangers telling us how they’re big fans of the restaurant but they’d left the City, and to please give the food to whoever is most in need, [like frontline workers]. We posted about it on Instagram, and received a flood of donations. So, we kept giving [bentos] to frontline healthcare workers and within two weeks we’d received $40K in donations.

We onboarded our friends at Raku and Ho Foods to help. Profits went to staff—some who have children to feed and some who can't get unemployment, so this was their only means of surviving. Later, a lot of restaurants started doing similar things. It was great to see the idea resonating. We received $145K in donations and donated 32K bentos. Someone even donated a car to help with big deliveries. When the bentos caught up with the donations, we ended up with a $25K surplus. We didn’t want to just sit on our asses, so [we used it to fund reopening], and now we’re back! We’ll finally be open for takeout and delivery [with a full menu]. Confucious [taught that the ultimate virtue is to love others], and we saw people’s good nature really shine through this. 

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